Clarification on the Labeling of Alcoholic Beverages as Gluten Free

February 11, 2014

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a ruling which clarifies the labeling of alcoholic beverages as gluten free.

Under this new ruling:


“(A)lcohol beverages that are made without any ingredients containing gluten (such as wines fermented from grapes or other fruit and distilled spirits distilled from materials other than gluten-containing grains, where such products do not include any ingredients containing gluten) may continue to make “gluten-free” claims in the same way allowed in the new FDA regulations for inherently gluten-free products.”


However, and this is the big news, those new beers that are made from gluten-containing grains, such as Omission Beer, are no longer allowed to label their products as gluten free. 


“TTB determined that it would be inherently misleading for alcohol beverages produced from grains containing gluten or their derivatives to make a “gluten-free” claim or a claim of specific gluten content levels absent a means to verify the accuracy of that statement through scientifically validated methods or other reliable means as might be revealed through FDA rulemaking. However, for products that were produced using wheat, barley, rye, or a crossbred hybrid of these grains, and were then processed, treated, or crafted to remove the gluten, TTB announced that it would allow use of the statement “[Processed or Treated or Crafted] to remove gluten,” together with a qualifying statement to inform consumers that: (1) the product was fermented or distilled from a grain that contains gluten; (2) the gluten content of the product cannot be verified; and (3) the product may contain gluten.”


If you are behind on the controversy, Omission Beer claimed that even though it’s beer was made from gluten-containing grains (barley), it was processed in such a manner that it contained less than 20 ppm gluten.


The TTB is rejecting this claim saying:


“Despite the contention of several industry members that some currently available tests can measure the gluten content of fermented foods, such as malt beverages, TTB agrees with FDA’s conclusion in its final rule that these methods are inappropriate due to the lack of recognized standards and methodologies that provide a meaningful quantitative analysis of the sample that can be related to 20 ppm intact gluten. Accordingly, it remains TTB’s policy that labels or advertisements that state or imply, without an appropriate basis or the necessary qualifications, that the gluten testing methodologies used for fermented and distilled products are scientifically valid and can accurately measure the specific level of gluten in the finished product (such as “contains x ppm”) will be considered misleading pending the establishment of a scientifically valid method of determining intact gluten levels in such products.”


You can read the entire ruling yourself HERE